Asthma   COPD

Asthma Q&A

The more you know about asthma and its treatment, the more you'll be able to control your breathing difficulties. These are some frequently-asked questions.

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What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition where the airways that carry air in and out of the lungs become inflamed in response to a variety of triggers. This inflammation causes a narrowing and tightening (constriction) of the airways, along with mucus build. This leads to asthma symptoms like wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing.

Reliever treatments can help alleviate the tightening, but treating the underlying inflammation requires you taking your preventer medicine regularly (if your healthcare professional has prescribed it). Itís important to talk to your healthcare professional about asthma treatment if you havenít already.

The symptoms and severity of asthma can vary from person to person. Although there is no cure, appropriate asthma treatment and management can help control most peopleís symptoms without having a major impact on their life.

How did I get asthma?

Asthmaís exact cause is still unknown, but it appears to result from the complex interaction of these ten risk factors:

  1. Family history
  2. Age and gender
  3. Obesity
  4. Allergens
  5. Infections
  6. Tobacco smoke
  7. Air pollution
  8. Occupational asthma
  9. Low birth weight
  10. Childhood diet
What are common asthma triggers?

A trigger is something that causes irritation to the airways, leading to asthma. Triggers do not usually cause asthma itself, but they can bring on symptoms and cause asthma attacks.

People can be affected by different triggers to different degrees. While there are a variety of triggers, some common ones include:

  • Dust, house mites and mould.
  • Pets -≠ usually furry or feathered.
  • Pollens and plants.
  • Smoking -≠ including passive smoking.
  • Household cleaning products, chemicals, fumes and dust.
  • Weather, temperature and seasonal changes.
  • Cold and flu viruses.
  • Stress and anxiety.
  • Exercise and activity.
  • Some medicines.

To help with your asthma control it's important to identify your triggers and, if possible, minimise contact with them or avoid them completely. This may not be practical all the time, but if you know what to look for, youĎll be aware when your symptoms need closer management.

For some, triggers can cause an immediate reaction, while for others it may not be completely obvious. Keep a diary of your asthma symptoms and talk to your healthcare professional about how to recognise your triggers and manage those symptoms.

Do allergies have anything to do with my asthma?

Allergens like dust mites, pet fur, mould, and pollen are widely recognised as triggers for asthma attacks. Some research has also pointed to these allergens as causes of asthma in susceptible children.

Why is it important to take Seretide twice a day, every day, even if Iím feeling better?

Although asthma is a chronic disease and canít be cured, your asthma symptoms can be controlled with proper asthma treatment.

Seretide is a daily maintenance medication prescribed to help control your breathing difficulties and prevent asthma attacks. When taken twice per day, every day, the two types of medicine in Seretide will help control your breathing difficulties throughout the day and night.1,2

Asthma affects different people in different ways. Your symptoms and asthma attacks may vary over time. Talk to your doctor if your asthma symptoms or attacks worsen.

How does Seretide work to treat my asthma?

Seretide is a combination daily maintenance medication that contains two types of medication to control both inflammation and airway constriction:

  • Inhaled Corticosteroid (ICS)
  • Long-Acting Bronchodilator (LABA)

When these two ingredients are taken together in Seretide, they can help control your breathing difficulties.1,2

Reliever inhalers, like Ventolin (salbutamol), should be used as directed by your doctor together with any additional information provided on the use of the medication from your pharmacist.

Seretide should not be used to relieve a sudden attack of breathlessness or wheezing.
If you get this sort of attack you must use a quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer. If you feel you are getting breathless or wheezy more often than normal, or you are using your reliever inhaler more than usual, you should go to your doctor.

Why do I feel like Iím not getting enough air? Am I having an asthma attack?

Asthma is a chronic disease that limits the flow of air in and out of your lungs. An asthma attack usually occurs after symptoms have become worse over a few days, although it can occur suddenly and without warning.

Of course, it's always better to prevent an attack happening in the first place, you can help by not ignoring your symptoms, using your preventer treatment regularly and avoiding potential triggers. You should have a personal asthma action plan agreed with your healthcare professional that will tell you what to do if your asthma symptoms get worse.

Visit your healthcare professional as soon as possible if your symptoms get worse and you donít have a clear understanding of getting your asthma under control along with an asthma treatment plan.

However, despite taking precautions, you may occasionally still experience an attack, so itís important to be able to recognise when you're having an attack and what to do.

Signs of an attack

There are warning signs that show that your asthma is getting worse. It's likely you're having an asthma attack if:

  • Your symptoms like wheezing, breathlessness, tightness of the chest, or coughing are getting worse
  • Your reliever inhaler doesn't help your symptoms or seems to wear off quickly so you have to take more
  • You are unable to complete sentences or talk properly
  • You are unable to eat or sleep because of your symptoms
  • Emergency asthma attack

    Call 111 and keep taking your quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin) also known as a reliever puffer, if you experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Severe shortness of breath (struggling to breathe)
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Wheezing sound when breathing in and out (if wheezing stops with no improvement in symptoms it is an extreme EMERGENCY)
  • Chest tightness (feels as if someone is sitting on chest)
  • Unable to speak more than one or two words per breath
  • Distressed or feeling frightened
  • Little or no improvement after using a quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer.
  • Areas at base of throat and between ribs 'sucking in' and out
  • Blueness around the lips
  • Hunching over

Note: Not all of the above symptoms may be present.

During an asthma attack, young children may appear restless, unable to settle and may have problems eating due to shortness of breath. They may also have severe coughing and vomiting. If you (or anyone in your care) have any of the above signs, call an ambulance (dial 111) straight away and follow the 5-Step Asthma Emergency Plan (see below).

Adapted from Asthma New Zealand: www.asthma-nz.org.nz

Seretide should not be used to relieve a sudden attack of breathlessness or wheezing.

If you get this sort of attack you must use a quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer. If you feel you are getting breathless or wheezy more often than normal, or you are using your reliever inhaler more than usual, you should go to your doctor.

What to do in an attack

If your asthma is properly treated it's unlikely that you will have an attack but if you do have an attack when you're out, follow these recommended steps:

  1. Take 6 puffs of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) immediately. The medication is best given one puff at a time via a spacer device. Use the puffer on its own if you don't have a spacer. Take 6 breaths from the spacer after each puff of medication.
  2. Sit down, loosen any tight clothing, and try to take slow, steady breaths, remain calm.
  3. If after 6 minutes you don't start to feel better, take 6 more puffs of your inhaler- one at a time Ė every 6 minutes, or until your symptoms improve.
  4. If you do not feel better after taking your inhaler as above, or if you are worried at any time, call 111.
  5. If an ambulance doesn't arrive within 10 minutes and your symptoms haven't improved, repeat step 3 until help arrives.

Adapted from Asthma New Zealand: www.asthma-nz.org.nz

Please note this asthma attack information is not designed for people using a Symbicort® inhaler on the Symbicort SMART regime. If you are on the Symbicort SMART regime please speak to your healthcare professional about what to do in the event of an asthma attack.

Even if your symptoms improve and you do not need to call 111, you still need to see a doctor or asthma nurse within 24 hours.

Can strong smells or chemical fumes affect asthma?

Yes, strong smells like chemicals or perfume can trigger asthma symptoms. There are simple solutions that can help with this though, such as wearing a mask when working with chemicals.

Can anxiety and stress trigger asthma symptoms or an attack?

Stress, anxiety, or depression can trigger asthma symptoms and attacks. Two-thirds of people with asthma find their symptoms and attacks are triggered by stress. Having asthma can be a source of stress in itself, particularly if your asthma isnít well-controlled. Frequently having to fight for breath is frightening and upsetting. Research shows that anxiety, depression and panic are more common in people with asthma than in the general population, and are associated with more symptoms, more attacks and a greater chance of ending up in hospital.

Such emotions may be the result of a particular problem or situation, like financial worries, bereavement or relationship difficulties, but can be caused by poor asthma control. Whatever the reason, remember that there are many people in a similar position and help is available.

Sometimes the symptoms of an asthma attack and severe stress or panic attack can be quite similar. Some people think their asthma attacks are panic attacks, so they don't take asthma control as seriously as they should. Likewise, measures to control panic -≠ like slow steady deep breathing -≠ can sometimes be more helpful than using lots of 'blue' quick-acting reliever inhalers (e.g. Ventolin). Discuss this with your doctor so you can easily recognise the difference.

What you can do

Firstly, make sure your ongoing asthma control is as good as it can be and that you regularly take your asthma medication. Take the Asthma Control Test to check your control level.

If stress or anxiety is a trigger for your asthma, here are some steps you can take to help reduce the risk:

  1. Try to relax. Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga or appropriate physical exercise can help lower stress levels. Physiotherapists can teach breathing exercises that can improve asthma control.
  2. Therapy or counselling. There are many types of support available. Therapy, like cognitive behavioural therapy, helps you look at your emotional state and reactions. Practical counselling can help with issues like debt management or career advice. Talk to your doctor about what services they would recommend.

If youíre concerned about the effects of stress and anxiety on your asthma, actively seek support and advice. You might be pleasantly surprised that simply discussing the way you feel with a healthcare professional or trusted friend can help.

Can I become addicted to Seretide?

No, you canít become addicted to Seretide. Itís a myth that the longer you take your asthma medications, the more youíll eventually need.

Your asthma symptoms can change over time and your doctor may need to adjust your medications.

Using more quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer, for symptom relief can your asthma is not under control and that your treatment needs to be reassessed by your doctor. See if your asthma is under control by taking the Asthma Control Test and discuss your results with your healthcare professional.

Seretide should not be used to relieve a sudden attack of breathlessness or wheezing.

If you get this sort of attack you must use a quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer. If you feel you are getting breathless or wheezy more often than normal, or you are using your reliever inhaler more than usual, you should go to your doctor.

Should I save Seretide for when my asthma gets really bad?

No, do not save Seretide for when your asthma gets really bad. Your doctor has prescribed Seretide as an asthma treatment to help keep your symptoms from getting bad in the first place.

Seretide is a daily maintenance medication designed to help control your breathing difficulties and should not be used as a rescue medication (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer, for a sudden attack of breathlessness.

Using more quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer, for symptom relief can mean your asthma is not under control and that your treatment needs to be reassessed by your doctor.

Seretide should not be used to relieve a sudden attack of breathlessness or wheezing.

If you get this sort of attack you must use a quick acting inhaler (e.g. Ventolin), also known as a reliever puffer. If you feel you are getting breathless or wheezy more often than normal, or you are using your reliever inhaler more than usual, you should go to your doctor.

Do I still need to be careful with asthma triggers if I am taking my asthma medications?

Yes, you will still need to be careful with your asthma triggers even after taking your medications, including your asthma inhaler.

Avoiding your personal asthma triggers is the first step, and the most effective way to control your symptoms.

What are the common side effects of Seretide?
Tell your doctor if any of these side effects occur, but do not stop treatment unless told to do so.

Medicines affect different people in different ways. Just because side effects have occurred in other patients does not mean you will get them. If any side effects bother you, please contact your doctor.

Most people taking this medicine find that it causes no problems. As with all medicines, a few people may find that it causes side effects. Some people can be allergic to medicines. If you have any of the following symptoms soon after taking Seretide, STOP taking this medicine and tell your doctor immediately.

  • Sudden wheeziness and chest pain or tightness.
  • Swelling of eyelids, face or lips
  • Lumpy skin rash or "hives" anywhere on the body.

Some people very occasionally find that their mouth, throat or tongue becomes sore or that their voice becomes hoarse after inhaling this medicine. Gargling with water and spitting it out immediately after each dose may help. Cleaning dentures may also help. Tell your doctor but do not stop treatment unless told to do so.

Also tell your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms -

  • Headache, muscle cramps, skin rash or trembling, increase in pulse rate or irregular heartbeat.

It is possible that in some patients, particularly those taking higher doses of this type of medication, may very rarely suffer from the following side effects Ė

  • Rounded face, loss of bone density, eye problems and slowing of growth in children.
  • An increase in sugar (glucose) in the blood.

Consult your doctor if you are worried about yourself or your children.

Very rarely the person taking the medicine may feel anxious, have disturbed sleep or notice an increased irritability (mainly in children).

This is not a complete list of side-effects. If you have any other unexpected effects or symptoms that you do not understand, tell your doctor or pharmacist.

Click here for complete Seretide Consumer Medicine Information.

Are the steroids used in Seretide the same as performance-enhancing (anabolic) steroids?

Absolutely not.

The inhaled corticosteroids used for controlling asthma are not the same as performance-enhancing (anabolic) steroids.

The steroid used in Seretide is an inhaled corticosteroid or ICS.

ICSs are used to treat breathing problems because they help reduce inflammation. They are inhaled directly into your lungs and when ICSs and long-acting bronchodilators are taken regularly, they reduce the swelling and irritation in the small air passages of the lungs and help to prevent asthma attacks.

More about how Seretide treats asthma.

How do I know if I'm taking Seretide correctly?

Your doctor, healthcare provider, or pharmacist can demonstrate how to use your Seretide asthma inhaler properly. Plus, every Seretide package comes with illustrated step-by-step instructions.

You can also click on these links for illustrated online instructions:

Properly using your Seretide Accuhaler.
Properly using your Seretide Inhaler.

Are there tests to tell if my asthma is not under control?

Yes, there are tests you can take to tell if your asthma is not under control and you can help manage your asthma symptoms by routinely checking your level of asthma control.

Take the Asthma Control Test at least once every season and share the results with your doctor.

What should I know about exercising with asthma?

Exercise is essential for our wellbeing and just because you have asthma doesn't mean you can't keep active. Providing your asthma is well controlled, asthma shouldn't be a barrier to staying fit or being involved in your favourite activities, including sport. Many top athletes - including David Beckham, Haile Gabrselassie and Paula Radcliffe - have asthma and it doesn't stop them from competing at the highest level!

However, some people with asthma find exercise can be a trigger. If this is the case for you, it may be a sign that your asthma is not as controlled as it could be. There are many strategies and treatments that may help, so discuss this with your healthcare professional to find the best asthma treatment for you.

Of course, some asthma symptoms, like breathlessness, are similar to what happens when we exercise, particularly if youíre not used to rigorous activity. Whilst this is a natural reaction to exercise, know your limitations and increase your exercise levels gradually through a fitness programme.

Aim to exercise freely at your optimum level without experiencing asthma symptoms. If exercise triggers your asthma, discuss this with your healthcare professional as it may be that a change in asthma treatment could stop symptoms from occurring. A number of strategies that could help include:

  • Occasional use of your reliever inhaler a few minutes before warming up. If you need to do this more than very occasionally, then your asthma treatment requires review by your healthcare professional.
  • Build your fitness levels gradually.
  • Always have your reliever inhaler with you.
  • Tell those you exercise with that you have asthma.
  • Be aware of other asthma triggers like hay fever and avoid these whilst exercising.
  • If you experience symptoms whilst exercising; stop, use your inhaler, and wait until you feel better before continuing.
How can I live with my asthma and have pets?

Animals, usually furry or feathered, can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms.

This can be a problem at home, where the allergens that trigger asthma are apparent in pets like dogs, cats, horses, rodents or birds, potentially making it a long-term issue.

Because pet allergens are easily transferred on a person's clothing, they can also be found in places like schools and public buildings, and may be brought into the home of someone without a pet. Coming into close contact with people regularly in contact with animals can also be an asthma trigger.

Itís possible to test for pet allergies. This is usually a skin prick or simple blood test and may be worth discussing with your doctor if you think you might have such an allergy. If a pet is triggering your asthma symptoms, the most effective solution is to find a suitable new home for your pet. Even then, it may take up to six months for a significant reduction in allergen levels and the triggering of symptoms may not stop completely. Other methods, such as the use of air filters or regularly bathing a pet, are largely ineffective.

However, pets are important to many of us and we can have a strong attachment to them. You need to weigh up the balance between the pleasure you derive from having a pet and the effect they have on your asthma if they trigger your symptoms.

There are some other measures that may help reduce the problem.

  • Restrict your pet's access to certain rooms in the house and keep them out of the bedroom
  • Do not allow your pet on the furniture
  • Keep rooms well-ventilated
  • Consider taking up carpets and having hard floors
  • Take precautions when visiting homes with pets and be aware of how you handle pets or animals
Why does my asthma get worse during certain seasons?

Different people have different triggers for their asthma symptoms. These might be present year round - like tobacco smoke or pet allergies - or related to different times of the year.

So along with making sure your asthma is well controlled, here are a few suggestions that may help your asthma through the seasons.

Spring and Summer

Hot or humid weather are known asthma triggers, so take your reliever inhaler with you in such conditions. Air pollution and ozone can also trigger symptoms in some people and as it can be higher on hot days, avoid exercising outdoors.

Pollen and hay fever can also be asthma triggers, so check the pollen forecast and learn how to reduce your exposure to these allergens. For some, asthma symptoms are purely seasonal, occurring at certain times of the year, like when the pollen count is high. For these people itís important to take preventer medication for 2-3 weeks before and throughout the season.

Autumn and Winter

Cold air and sudden temperature changes are common asthma triggers, so wrap up warm in the winter and take care when moving from a warm room into colder outdoor temperatures. Keep your reliever inhaler with you and try wrapping a scarf around your face to warm the air before you breathe it in.

The autumn and winter are usually when we most often suffer from colds, flu and other infections which can all trigger asthma. Talk to your healthcare professional about what you can do to help prevent these symptoms and what medication or vaccinations may be suitable for you. If you get a cold or flu itís important to keep a close eye on your asthma and treat any complications early as they may worsen your asthma symptoms.

How can hay fever affect my asthma?

Allergic rhinitis is a condition caused by inflammation in the nose due to an allergic response to allergens in the air. It results in congestion, sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes.

Allergic rhinitis can be due to allergens only occurring at certain times of the year (like pollen). This is called intermittent allergic rhinitis. Or, it can be due to allergens present year round (like house dust). This is called persistent allergic rhinitis.

Allergic rhinitis can act as a trigger for asthma, so if this condition is a problem for you, itís important to treat effectively.

Hay fever

Commonly called hay fever, intermittent allergic rhinitis is caused by a reaction to pollen or spores in the atmosphere. Many types of pollen or spores - like those from grass, trees or certain flowers - can trigger a reaction, but you may not be allergic to all of them. Try to identify exactly which are problematic for you by noting the time of year and locations when you're most affected. Itís also possible to do simple tests, like skin prick testing or an allergy blood test, which can help determine your personal triggers.

Hay fever is more common in people with asthma as up to 30% of people with hay fever also have asthma, and most people with asthma also have hay fever.

What you can do:

Treatments

Some treatments are available 'over the counter' at pharmacies and others require your doctorís prescription. If you've tried over-the-counter medicines and your symptoms persist, discuss alternative treatments with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Avoiding triggers
Itís often not possible to completely avoid pollen, but you can reduce your exposure:

  • Check the pollen forecast and, if the pollen count is high, try to stay inside with doors and windows closed, especially in the morning and late afternoon.
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses to reduce the amount of pollen blowing into your eyes.
  • Don't air dry your washing outdoors when the pollen count is high as it can get trapped in your clothing.
  • Take a shower after going outside if the pollen count is high.
  • Splash water on your face to sooth eyes and wash away pollen.
Can the weather and environment affect my asthma symptoms?

Yes, the weather and environment can affect your asthma symptoms.

Various weather and atmospheric conditions are known asthma triggers. In some people, hot and cold temperatures, as well as changes in barometric pressure, can affect asthma. Thunderstorms and windy conditions where pollen, dust and other irritants are blown into the air, are also strongly linked to asthma and can even cause full blown asthma attacks.

Pollution and poor air quality can also impact your asthma. For example, ozone is a gas created by a reaction between pollutants like exhaust fumes, and sunlight. This ground-level ozone is often noticeable as 'smog' and is associated with reduced lung function and asthma symptoms.

If weather conditions influence your asthma symptoms, here are some ideas that may help:

  • In cold temperatures, wrap a scarf around your face to warm the air around your mouth.
  • If it's hot and humid, avoid going out during the hottest part of the day.
  • Keep windows and doors closed during storms.
  • In windy conditions, a scarf around your mouth and nose may reduce the effect of irritants.
  • Check the weather forecast and other sources for information on temperature, pollen count and air quality.
How can I tell when my asthma is out of control?

Help manage your asthma symptoms by routinely checking your level of asthma control.

There are warning signs that show your asthma is getting worse. Talk to your doctor if you notice one or more of the following:

  • A change in your symptoms such as more coughing, wheezing attacks, chest tightness, or an unusual increase in the severity of breathlessness.
  • You wake up at night with chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • Measurement from your peak flow meter indicates a value between 60 and 80 percent of predicted or personal best.
Asthma Control Test

The Asthma Control Test is a short questionnaire for asthma patients developed by experts. It helps to show you and your doctor or nurse how well your asthma has been controlled over the last four weeks. This will help to decide whether or not your asthma treatment needs changing.

It is common for people to overestimate how well controlled their asthma is, as they have come to accept that symptoms and lifestyle limitations are normal. This should not be the case because with the right treatment, asthma control is possible for most people.

Because asthma symptoms vary over time, you should do the Asthma Control Test at least once a season to monitor how well you're doing. You can do it more often if you feel your asthma is getting worse. It takes less than a minute to complete as there are only five questions to answer and you'll receive a score out of 25.

A score of 20 or more means your asthma control is likely to be good, but anything less means control is likely to be less than ideal and asthma is affecting your life more than it should. A score of 15 or less indicates you may be at risk of an asthma attack and you should see your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. A fall in your score means that it is likely your control has got worse and a change in treatment may be needed.

Even though it's quick and easy, the Asthma Control Test is a proven useful tool in identifying poor asthma control. It's a good idea to do the test regularly to see if your score changes. Share the results with your healthcare professional so they can make any necessary adjustments to your personal asthma action plan.

Why not take the Asthma Control Test now - just click here.

What is an asthma action plan?

Your written asthma action plan can help you respond to asthma attacks and other changes in your condition.

Your action plan is your personalised road map to help control your asthma. It can help take the guesswork out of important decisions as they arise. Talk to your doctor about your personalised asthma action plan.

Can my weight affect my asthma?

Being overweight can worsen your asthma symptoms, putting a burden on the lungs, making it more difficult to breathe.

A high Body Mass Index (BMI), an indicator of obesity, is associated with an increased frequency and severity of asthma symptoms. People who are overweight often have less control over their asthma and reduced lung function compared to those of normal weight with asthma.

If youíre obese, losing weight can improve lung function, asthma symptoms and general health.

Eat healthily

Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to help control weight and improve asthma.

Exercise

If your asthma is well controlled, it won't be a barrier to taking the amount of exercise appropriate for you. So why not talk to your healthcare professional about introducing some activities and exercise in to your daily routine?

Do I need to make special arrangements when travelling?

With some preparation, and making sure your asthma is well controlled, there aren't any reasons for asthma to restrict your travel or holiday arrangements. Here are some tips that could help you with travel preparation.

Where to go?

If your asthma is well controlled, there shouldn't be any major restrictions on your destination. However, you may wish to take into account certain triggers like temperature (either hot or cold weather), humidity, altitude or pollution.

The cold weather and exercise involved in skiing may trigger asthma so make sure you're asthma is well controlled before you go and carry your quick acting reliever (e.g. Ventolin) with you at all times. The same advice goes for trekking at altitude. Discuss with your healthcare professional how you can prepare, especially if youíre visiting remote areas or where local healthcare provision is limited.

Diving can make asthma considerably worse. You should not plan a diving holiday without discussing this with your doctor first.

Before you go

Preparation is key to helping your trip go smoothly.

Health insurance is essential, but can be expensive. Shop around for the best price, disclose all relevant facts regarding your condition, and ensure your asthma is covered.

Draw up a personal asthma action plan with your healthcare professional and think about how to obtain medicines abroad just in case.

Have a printout of all your regular prescriptions in case you need medical advice or you lose your medication.

Take enough asthma inhalers (preventer and reliever) and medication with you to last for the holiday plus plenty of extra supply. Don't rely on obtaining your medication at the destination.

Pack spare medicine separately both when travelling and at your destination.

Speak to your healthcare professional about immunisations for travelling abroad at least two months before you travel.

Air travel

If possible, medication should be carried in your hand baggage, but recent restrictions mean you should obtain prior agreement from the airline and also have a note from your healthcare professional.

Always have your reliever or asthma inhaler close at hand. Flying won't adversely affect your asthma inhaler and they are safe to use on aircraft.

One of the best preparations for going on holiday is to have good control of your asthma, before, during (and of course, after) your trip. Talk to your healthcare professional about this so you can have a great time while you're away!

What should I know about sex and asthma?

Sex can be an important part of a healthy relationship and your general wellbeing. But for some people, asthma can get in the way of sex. In one survey of people who made asthma-related visits to hospital, nearly 60% said their sexual activity was limited by their asthma.

This will not happen if you are on the right asthma treatment, and if it does, you need to speak to your healthcare professional and review your personal asthma action plan.

There are a number of things you can do to help control symptoms you may get during sexual activity. Sometimes just using your quick acting reliever inhaler (e.g. Ventolin) immediately before sex is all you need to do, but sometimes your regular medication may need to be changed.

Just like with other forms of physical exercise, there are ways you can improve your overall fitness and health. Visit the Exercise section for more details.

What is the effect of smoking on asthma?

You've no doubt heard it before, but smoking can seriously damage your health.

If you have asthma, smoking is particularly bad news as it can make your symptoms worse, reduce the effectiveness of your asthma treatment and lead to permanent lung damage and irreversible narrowing of the airways. Smoke is one of the main triggers of asthma, with 82% of sufferers saying that other people's tobacco smoke triggers their symptoms.

Tobacco smoke can permanently damage the lining of the airways. Not only can this impair the overall functioning of your lungs, but it can also reduce their ability to deal with other irritants like pollen. It can cause an additional build up of mucus in the lungs, which in turn may trigger further asthma symptoms.

Secondary - or passive - smoking can also make asthma symptoms worse and trigger attacks. A study found that children of parents who smoked were 1.5 times more likely to develop asthma, and it has also been shown that children exposed to passive smoke have a higher risk of chest infections and other respiratory illnesses.

That's why cutting down or, even better, giving up smoking, is not only great for you, but for those around you too.

Thinking of quitting?

Giving up smoking isn't easy. Nicotine is very addictive and smoking may have become part of your daily routine. However, every day people quit smoking and experience the benefits to their own health and finances, while also benefitting the people around them.

If youíre serious about quitting, here are a few tips:

  • Utilise the knowledge and resources available from your healthcare professional. People are more successful in quitting when they have support.
  • Make a list of all the reasons you want to stop smoking and refer to it each time you want a cigarette.
  • Set a date to quit and think about alternative ways to cope when you would normally smoke, like on a night out or during a stressful situation.
  • If friends or family smoke, explain your situation and ask for their support by not smoking near you or offering you a cigarette.

It's never too late to quit smoking. Your health will benefit from quitting whatever age you are. So what's stopping you?

What should I know about relationships and asthma?

Some people feel embarrassed about having asthma and worry how it might impact their relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. Using an inhaler in front of other people can feel embarrassing and having an asthma attack in public can be alarming for everyone involved. This shouldn't happen if your asthma is well controlled.

If you are taking your medication as agreed with your healthcare professional and noted in a personal asthma action plan, then your symptoms shouldn't disrupt your life too much. Explain to friends about your asthma and they will most likely be fine about it.

There is no reason at all why having asthma should make you isolated from other people. It's always best to talk about your concerns with your family or healthcare professional.

Try to avoid certain asthma triggers. If, for example, some of your friends smoke, explain the situation and ask them to open a window or smoke when you're in a different room. Other triggers like strong perfume or aftershave may mean you need to ask your friend to tone it down a bit! For some people, the exercise of having sex can trigger asthma symptoms. If you have any concerns about the impact of your asthma on your relationships then speak to your healthcare professional.

How can a personal asthma action plan help my asthma treatment?

A personal asthma action plan is a written document completed in conjunction with your doctor or nurse. Everyone with asthma needs a good understanding of their condition and know what to do if things get worse. One of the most effective ways to manage and take greater control of your asthma is to have your own personal asthma action plan. People with an action plan coupled with regular reviews improve their asthma control and quality of life. A typical plan will include:

  • Details of your asthma medication and when to take it.
  • How to recognise if your symptoms are getting worse, what to do if they are, and when to contact your healthcare professional.
  • Identification of triggers and how to avoid them.
  • Tips on what to do in an emergency.
Why a personal action plan helps

Not only does a personal action plan give useful information, it also lets you vary your asthma medication (within agreed limits) so you can respond to how you're feeling and gain better control of your asthma.

It's important that your plan is reviewed at least once every year to make sure it stays relevant. It should always be checked after an asthma attack to see if it needs to be changed.

If you don't have a personal Asthma Action Plan when you next visit your healthcare professional, ask if they can complete one with you. To see an example of a personal asthma action plan, follow this link.

What are lung function tests?

Lung function tests are useful in diagnosing and monitoring asthma and are performed by blowing into measuring instruments. There are two main types of lung function tests: spirometry (using a machine called a spirometer) and peak expiratory flow (measured on a peak flow meter).

Spirometry

Spirometry is used by healthcare professionals to test and diagnose asthma and other lung diseases. It measures how much air you can move in and out of your lungs, how fast you can empty them out and how much you can blow out in one second.

Peak expiratory flow

Peak expiratory flow rate, also known as peak flow, or PEF, is a measure of the maximum speed of the flow of air out of your lungs when you blow as hard as you can. This provides an indication of how well your asthma is controlled and also if your treatment is effective.

Readings are obtained by blowing into a peak flow meter and the narrower your airways are the lower the reading will be.

You can obtain a peak flow meter from your doctor. You can then use it at home to measure your own peak flow on a regular basis and keep a record of the results. This can give you an overall picture of your level of asthma control, help you decide on the need to vary your asthma treatment as agreed in your action plan, and provide detailed information to your healthcare professional.

Monitoring peak flow can be useful to help prevent asthma attacks from happening, especially in those people who don't notice symptoms of their asthma until itís quite bad.

A fall in peak flow reading indicates your asthma is getting worse and could mean you are at risk of an asthma attack. Discuss with your healthcare professional what you should do if this happens.

If you are taking peak flow measures as part of your personal asthma action plan keep up the good work and do it regularly. If you donít have a peak flow meter, speak to your healthcare professional and find out if it can help with your asthma control.

How can I ensure my asthma doesn't affect my social life?

Having asthma shouldnít restrict your social life, whether youíre off to the pub or visiting friends. If your asthma is well controlled you should be able to lead a full and active life.

However, it's still important to know your triggers and avoid them where possible. For instance, if hay fever sparks your asthma symptoms, check the pollen forecast and take measures to prevent it (this should be in your personal asthma action plan). Also check things like temperature so you can prepare appropriately for cold or hot weather.

Food allergies are not a common cause of asthma but certain foods can trigger some people. You should discuss this with your healthcare professional if you think this is a problem for you and they might decide you require further tests.

Passive smoking can act as a trigger so watch out for smoky atmospheres.

Always take your quick acting reliever inhaler (e.g. Ventolin) whenever you go out, and it's always a good idea to tell a friend how they can help in the event of an attack.

If your asthma is properly treated it's unlikely youíll have an attack, but if you do have one while you're out, follow these recommended steps:

  1. Take 6 puffs of your reliever asthma inhaler (usually blue) immediately. The medication is best given one puff at a time via a spacer device. Use the puffer on its own if you don't have a spacer. Take 6 breaths from the spacer after each puff of medication.
  2. Sit down, loosen any tight clothing, and try to take slow, steady breaths, remaining calm.
  3. If after 6 minutes you don't start to feel better, take 6 more puffs of your inhaler - one at a time Ė every 6 minutes, or until your symptoms improve.
  4. If you do not feel better after taking your inhaler as above, or if you are worried at any time, call 111.
  5. If an ambulance doesn't arrive within 10 minutes and your symptoms haven't improved, repeat step 3 until help arrives.

Adapted from Asthma New Zealand: www.asthma-nz.org.nz.

Please note this asthma attack information is not designed for people using a Symbicort inhaler on the Symbicort SMART regime. If you are on the Symbicort SMART regime please speak to your healthcare professional about what to do in the event of an asthma attack.

Even if your symptoms improve and you do not need to call 111, you still need to see a doctor or asthma nurse within 24 hours.

Will my food allergy affect my asthma?

Food isn't often a trigger for asthma unless you have food allergies (e.g. nuts). While people with asthma don't usually have to follow a special diet, eating healthy with plenty of fruit and vegetables and few additives may help.

In some people, certain foods can worsen asthma symptoms, but you will usually know whether this applies to you. For some, food allergies can trigger asthma, as can alcoholic drinks, though these are both rare. A food allergy is when the body's immune system reacts to the presence of certain substances, with symptoms varying greatly from person to person.

Food allergies can cause anything from wheezing, rashes, swelling in the mouth and gut symptoms. The offending food varies and can include:

  • Fish and seafood.
  • Foods containing yeast or nuts.
  • Certain food additives and colourings such as sodium metabisulphite, sulphites, benzoic acid, and tartrazine.
  • Products made from Royal Jelly (bee related product)
  • Very occasionally dairy products such as milk, cheese and eggs

If you think your asthma may be affected by what you eat, talk to your healthcare professional. Allergy testing may be needed.

What else can you do?

  • Make sure your asthma is well controlled by taking your preventer medication regularly.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
  • A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables may help protect against the severity of inflammation in asthma.
  • A healthy diet can boost the immune system, helping prevent colds, flu and other infections that may be asthma triggers.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
Should I get a flu jab each year?

Viruses can often play a role in triggering asthma symptoms. Viruses are germs that can cause colds, flu and chest infections, which in turn can trigger symptoms or even lead to full-blown asthma attacks.

Frequent asthma triggers include the common cold (an upper respiratory tract infection), and influenza (flu). If you suffer moderate or severe asthma, itís recommended you have an annual flu vaccination to help prevent the illness. You may qualify for a funded flu vaccination if you have asthma. There are a few side effects associated with it, so always talk to your healthcare professional about whether itís suitable for you.

In New Zealand, the flu season usually starts in March and lasts until July and the vaccine is widely available from clinics and healthcare providers starting in early March.

More about the flu

What sort of asthma medication has my doctor prescribed?

There are many different medicines available for asthma treatment and most involve taking asthma inhalers. Your healthcare professional will go through the possible treatments with you and together you will agree on the ones most suitable for you. Here's a brief description of some of the terms you may hear:

Relievers

A reliever medicine, usually delivered by a blue inhaler, provides rapid, but short-acting relief of chest tightness and wheezing by relaxing the narrowed airways (known as bronchoconstriction) to help ease wheezing and breathlessness.

The most commonly recommended relievers are drugs called short-acting beta-2 agonists. These work within a few minutes to make it easier for you to breathe. There are a number of different reliever inhalers that can be used and your healthcare professional will advise which is most suitable for you.

Carry your reliever with you in case you experience symptoms, but relievers shouldn't be needed very often. If you need them most days or are waking at night in need of yours, then your asthma is not well controlled and you should talk to your healthcare professional.

Preventers

People with asthma have inflammation of the lining of the air tubes. This inflammation causes irritation and narrowing of these tubes, which in turn causes wheezing, tight chest and cough. Preventer medicines are designed to reduce this inflammation, preventing symptoms and asthma attacks.

To achieve this protective effect, preventers must be taken regularly (usually morning and night), even when youíre feeling well, as there will nearly always be persisting inflammation in the lungs that will cause problems if left untreated. Most people with asthma will be prescribed preventer medicines as they are a cornerstone of treatment. The most widely prescribed preventer medicines are inhaled steroids that usually come in brown, red, or orange inhalers.

Some preventers come in tablet form, like leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) and theophylline. Sometimes steroid tablets (e.g. prednisone) are required to treat badly controlled asthma.

Other medicines

If your asthma is not well controlled with your regular preventer, your healthcare professional may suggest using additional, or Ďadd-oní, therapy like a long-acting bronchodilator to better control your asthma. There are also combined therapies which are both preventer and bronchodilator medication. Other types and formats of medicine are available to help your healthcare professional give you the most appropriate treatment specific to your needs.

Side effects

Many people worry about the side effects of asthma medication, particularly if theyíre taken over a long period of time. There has been a lot of research into the benefits and side effects of asthma medicines, and overall the benefits outweigh the risks for those who need them.

The steroids used in many preventer inhalers do not cause addiction, lose their effectiveness over time or cause weight gain. The majority of people with asthma only require low doses of inhaled steroids, which are unlikely to cause serious side-effects. Sometimes regular inhaled steroids can lead to ulcers or oral thrush, but this can usually be avoided with simple measures like rinsing your mouth after using your inhaler or using a spacer device.

As the dose of a treatment increases, so does the possible risk of side effects, but high doses are only rarely needed, becoming necessary if your asthma is not well controlled. Your healthcare professional will work with you to maintain good control and keep your medication at the lowest possible dose.

The patient information leaflet you receive with your asthma treatment has detailed information about side-effects. If you are concerned about particular side effects or think a treatment is causing a side effect, ask your healthcare professional for advice.

How can my job affect my asthma?

There are two different kinds of workplace asthma: occupational asthma and work-aggravated asthma.

Occupational asthma

Occupational asthma is defined as being directly caused by exposure to certain substances in the work environment. The reaction to these triggers can appear almost immediately or take months (or even years) to develop. People with occupational asthma usually did not have asthma before. When asthma begins during adulthood, occupational asthma is usually the cause and should always be considered. If the trigger is removed in time, the asthma will often go away, but if exposure continues beyond a certain point the asthma becomes permanent.

Recognising occupational asthma

Diagnosing occupational asthma early and removing the trigger could prevent it from developing. While the symptoms are the same as regular asthma, you may have occupational asthma if you notice your symptoms:

  • Began within a year or two of starting a new job, taking on a new role, or moving to a different part of the workplace.
  • Began after working with new substances or procedures.
  • Improves at weekends or when you've been away from work such as on holiday.

If you suspect occupational asthma, talk to your healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Substances causing occupational asthma

There are over 300 substances that have been identified as causes of occupational asthma such as dust, manufacturing chemicals, painting and cleaning processes, metals and adhesives. Occupations with a higher than normal risk of causing occupational asthma include paint sprayers, cleaners, bakers, laboratory workers, electricians working with solder and health workers working with disinfectants.

Preventing occupational asthma

The only effective way of preventing occupational asthma is not to be exposed to the trigger. Employers have a legal obligation to assess and control triggers in the workplace, so if you believe they could do more, contact your local environmental health office or Health and Safety Executive for advice.

Work-aggravated asthma

Work-aggravated asthma is where someone already has asthma but from time to time it is made worse by experiencing certain triggers at work. Dust, cigarette smoke, stress, perfumes, chemicals or cleaning products are often triggers.

Choosing a career

With few exceptions, there is no reason why you shouldn't take a job of your choosing. When considering a new job however, itís smart to consider the possible risks. If you have any concerns about your choice of career, talk to your healthcare professional.

What type of asthma devices are available?

Asthma medicines are available as tablets, syrups, nebulisers or injections, but most are sprays or powders designed to be used as asthma inhaler devices. This way, the medicine is delivered straight to your lungs where itís most needed. This also means the medicine has fewer side effects than if taken by mouth.

There are many different types of asthma inhalers available, but whichever type you have been prescribed, itĎs essential you know how to use it properly so you receive the correct dose. Your healthcare professional will advise you on the most appropriate device for you and explain how it works. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will check that you are using it correctly from time to time, so don't be offended! A lot of people get it wrong so itís really important to make sure you do it correctly.

Pressurised metered dose inhalers (MDI).

MDIs deliver medicine as a fine spray (aerosol) by pressing down on the top of the device. You should breathe in slowly over a period of five seconds while, at the same time, pressing the canister down to release the medicine. Co-ordination and timing is important. You need to be shown how to do this by a healthcare professional such as your doctor, practice nurse or pharmacist and should expect to have your technique checked about once a year.

Pressurised breath activated inhalers

These are similar to metered dose inhalers, but the medicine is automatically released as a spray as you inhale so you don't have to co-ordinate the actions of pressing the inhaler and breathing in, therefore making this option a little easier to use.

Dry powder inhalers

Dry powder inhalers deliver medicine in the form of a powder, which you suck into your lungs by taking a full deep breath through the inhaler. You need to breathe in as hard and fast as you can to get the most benefit from this type of inhaler.

Spacer devices

Spacers are large inhaler chambers, usually made of plastic that are used with pressurised metered dose inhalers. The inhaler is slotted into one end of the spacer and you breathe in slowly at the other end over about five seconds.

Keep in mind, if you use a pressurised metered dose inhaler without a spacer, a lot of the spray hits back of your mouth and throat, meaning the medicine doesn't get to the lungs to help your asthma. Spacers make it easier to coordinate breathing in and pressing the inhaler. Because they help the medicine get to the right place they reduce side effects, especially from higher doses of preventer medicines.

Nebulisers

Nebulisers are machines that create a mist of medicine which is breathed in through a mouthpiece or mask. They may be used in clinics or hospitals for emergencies but multiple inhalations of a reliever medicine through a spacer are equally as good in a crisis.

If you have any concerns about the device you are using or your inhaler technique, speak with your healthcare professional for advice.

What happens to my asthma as I get older?

For most people, asthma begins in childhood. It was once commonly thought that the symptoms gradually disappeared as we age but this isn't always the case. Around a third of people 'lose' their asthma completely, but it does continue for others. Severity of symptoms and triggers are often subject to change.

Some adults are diagnosed with asthma for the first time, which is known as adult onset asthma. For older people their asthma may be triggered by different things from when they were younger. If asthma begins in a working adult, it is important to consider if something in the workplace has triggered it. This is called occupational asthma, and if the trigger is removed quickly enough, the asthma may go away completely.

Remember that asthma is not the only cause of shortness of breath. Other conditions affecting the lungs and heart can also be a cause. If you experience new or worsening breathlessness, particularly as you get older, see your healthcare professional for advice.

As you age, other conditions may develop, making asthma control worse such as becoming overweight. The same apply to hay fever, allergies symptoms, or beginning to smoke. Anxiety and depression are also linked to poor asthma control.

There are some steps you can take to help prevent your asthma getting worse with age, including:

  • Keep your asthma well controlled and review your personal action plan regularly. Take your preventer medication as instructed to treat asthma symptoms early.
  • Use your inhaler as directed by your healthcare professional. If youíre unsure, speak to your doctor, clinic nurse or local pharmacist.
  • Don't smoke. If you do smoke and are finding it difficult to quit, talk to your doctor about strategies that can help.
  • Keep as fit and healthy as possible by eating a good diet and keeping your weight at a healthy level.
  • If you suffer from other conditions like hay fever, indigestion or depression, treat them appropriately as they can make your asthma worse.
How does asthma change during pregnancy?

Pregnancy can affect asthma in a variety of ways. During pregnancy, around a third of women find their asthma improves, one third experiences worsening symptoms and the other third donít notice a change.

There has been a lot of research into the effects of asthma and asthma medication on pregnancy and the unborn child. The health of babies born to mothers with well-controlled asthma is similar to those born to mothers without asthma.

During pregnancy, the main risks to an unborn baby come from the mother having uncontrolled asthma or severe asthma attacks. If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, it's important to talk to your healthcare professional who can advise you on the steps you can take to control your asthma. Do not stop your regular asthma medication until you have discussed it with the doctor or nurse who usually looks after your asthma.

Continue taking your asthma medication while pregnant as advised by your healthcare professional. It's only natural to have concerns, so don't be afraid to raise them!

Some women worry that their symptoms may worsen during labour, but this is rare and itís okay to use your reliever inhaler as normal if needed.

Reducing risks during pregnancy

Here are some steps you can take to reduce risks to you and your baby during pregnancy:

Make sure your asthma is well controlled through regular check-ups with your healthcare professional and by having a personal asthma action plan.

Regularly monitor your asthma control by taking the Asthma Control Test (ACT). If you have been asked to monitor your peak flow at home, do this as well.

Keep taking your asthma medication as guided by your healthcare professional and your personal asthma action plan.

Draw up a birth plan with your healthcare professional which takes your asthma into account.

Don't smoke. Smoking while pregnant has harmful effects on babies and can increase the risk of the baby having breathing difficulties including asthma. Smoking is also a common trigger for asthma attacks.

Does alcohol consumption affect asthma?

Generally, itís okay for you to drink alcohol and take your asthma medication, as these should not interact with each other.

While itís unusual for alcoholic drinks to trigger asthma, if it does occur, the actual asthma trigger is likely to be an ingredient or additive to the drink rather than the alcohol itself. This means you may find certain types of alcoholic drink trigger your asthma while others don't. If you think your asthma may be affected by alcoholic drinks, talk to your healthcare professional to discuss your asthma control. You could also keep a diary to help you identify if itís actually alcoholic drinks that are triggering your asthma.

(Note: Some asthma inhalers contain a tiny amount of alcohol. If this is a concern for you please check with your healthcare professional.) Seretide, Flixotide, Serevent and Ventolin do not contain any alcohol.


Glossary

Here is a brief definition of terms you might come across relating to asthma:
Acute asthma - A sudden worsening of asthma symptoms.

Allergen - Something that comes into contact with the body (either by being inhaled, eaten, or contacting the skin), producing an allergic response.

Allergic rhinitis - Inflammation in the nose causing congestion, sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes due to an allergic response to allergens in the environment. It can be due to allergens that only occur at certain times of the year, like pollen (hay fever), or allergens that are present year round, like house dust. Itís more common in people with asthma and can trigger asthma.

Anaphylaxis (anaphylactic attack) - A sudden, severe allergic response to an allergen that can be life-threatening without urgent treatment.

Asthma Control Test™ (ACT) - A short questionnaire to help patients assess their asthma control.

Bronchoconstriction/bronchospasm - The contraction of the muscles around the airways causing narrowing of the air tubes resulting in wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness.

Bronchodilator - A medicine that helps open (dilate) the air tubes. Usually given in a blue inhaler.

Chronic - A term used to describe a long-lasting condition or disease.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - A disease of the lungs, usually caused by smoking in which the air tubes are permanently narrowed or blocked. It has some symptoms and treatments similar to asthma. However, in asthma, the effects on the air tubes are reversible with the right treatment.

Control - Good asthma control means no symptoms of wheezing, breathlessness, cough or chest tightness. This also includes no restrictions to activities or asthma attacks and an infrequent need to use rescue (usually blue) inhalers.

Dander - Animal hair and flakes of skin which can cause allergic reactions.

Diagnosis - The identification of an illness or health problem by its signs, symptoms and medical tests.

Dry powder inhaler - An inhaler delivering medication to the lungs in powder form rather than as an aerosol.

Exacerbation - An asthma attack.

Exercise-induced asthma - Asthma symptoms brought on by exercise.

Hay fever - A name for allergic rhinitis in response to pollens that usually occurs in the spring. It may be associated with poor asthma control.

Healthcare professional - A person qualified in a health profession, such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Inflammation - Inflammation occurs when the body's defence mechanisms react to injury, infection or allergens. Inflamed tissues (e.g. the lining of the air tubes in people with asthma) become red and swollen.

Inhaler - A device that delivers asthma medicines to the lungs. Inhalers for relief medication are usually blue and preventers are often brown, red, or orange.

Late-onset asthma - Asthma that begins in adulthood.

Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA) - Medicines used to treat asthma in some people, in the form of a tablet as opposed to an inhaler. LTRA medicines are taken regularly and work by blocking one of the chemicals involved in producing air tube inflammation.

Long-acting beta agonist (LABA) - A bronchodilator that works over a longer period of time (around 12 hours) than the 'short-acting' beta agonists. Usually used regularly as an 'add-on' to treatment with inhaled steroids.

Lung function tests - 'Blowing' measurements made on medical devices that describe how well the lungs are working and whether the air tubes are constricted. A peak flow measurement is an example of a lung function test.

(Pressurised) Metered dose inhaler (MDI) - Inhalers that use pressurised gas to deliver asthma medicine as a fine spray (aerosol) to the lungs.

Occupational asthma - Asthma caused by allergens inhaled in the work environment.

Ozone - A gas present in the atmosphere that, when present in the lower atmosphere, is a pollutant and can trigger asthma. [In the upper atmosphere (the ozone layer) ozone is beneficial and protective against harmful radiation from the sun.]

Peak flow rate - A measure of how fast a person can blow air out of their lungs and is a measure of how narrowed the air tubes are. It is measured by a peak flow meter and regular recording of results can be useful in monitoring asthma.

Personal asthma action plan - A plan of what to do when your asthma changes, containing details of your medication, asthma triggers, how to notice if your asthma is getting worse and what to do if you have an asthma attack. Drawn up with your healthcare professional, it is essential in helping you keep control of your asthma.

Preventer - Medicine taken regularly to control asthma by stopping inflammation in the lungs and asthma symptoms from occurring. Usually given as regularly taken inhalers, preventer medicines are the most important in controlling asthma and allowing you to lead a full life.

Primary care - Care delivered by healthcare professionals in the community as the first point of contact for patients. Primary care includes general practitioners, practice nurses and pharmacists.

Puffer - A common name for an inhaler, usually one that delivers medication in a spray.

Referral - Being sent to see a specialist for advice and treatment.

Reliever - Reliever inhalers (usually blue), also known as rescue inhalers. These act quickly to relax the airways making it easier to breathe and relieving symptoms, but have no effect on the underlying inflammation. People with well-controlled asthma should rarely need a reliever inhaler.

Review - An asthma check-up when the medicines and personal asthma action plan are reviewed. You should have an asthma review once every year and more often if things are not fully controlled.

Rhinitis - Irritation and inflammation of internal areas of the nose (see allergic rhinitis). Short-acting beta agonist (SABA) is the type of medicine used in reliever inhalers and acts as a bronchodilator opening the air tubes. These medicines start to work within a few minutes but do not affect the underlying inflammation in asthma and should rarely be needed in well-controlled asthma.

Skin prick test - A test for allergies where a small amount of allergen is pricked into the skin to see if a reaction occurs.

Spirometry - Detailed blowing tests carried out to determine how well the lungs are functioning. They give more information on the state of the lungs and air tubes than peak flow meters.

Steroids - A group of chemicals produced by the body and also made synthetically as medication in either an inhaled or tablet form. In asthma, they are used to treat inflammation in the airways which causes symptoms.

Theophylline - A medicine used in some patients that works by relaxing the muscles around the air tubes and is usually given in the form of a tablet. It is important that the dose of theophylline is exactly right for the individual, so blood tests are used to check this.

Triggers - Factors which may irritate the airways and bring on asthma symptoms or asthma attacks.

Uncontrolled asthma - This is when asthma symptoms are not well controlled and if nothing is done could lead to a full blown asthma attack. Use the Asthma Control Test to help you decide how well your asthma is controlled

How Seretide Can Help

Learn how Seretide works for patients with asthma, relieving symptoms and treating the underlying cause.

How Seretide Can Help

Learn how Seretide works for patients with asthma, relieving symptoms and treating the underlying cause.